I’ve been under the radar for the last couple of days/ weeks but for good reason and mostly not out of my own desire. This all mainly happened because I kind of caught a cold outside of Denmark (OMG, is this even possible?) which in turn turned my IQ into something close to the current temperature outside in Copenhagen (pointing to the fact that I almost brushed my teeth with shaving cream in the evening).

Besides that, having a cold made me do something that game students don’t do too much in their free time and that is : playing games. After starting Assassins Creed 2 my roommate had the bright idea of downloading the demo for XCOM : Enemy Unknown and he liked it so much that he bought it…. at 2 in the morning! Needless to say, the little dwarf I have in my head begged me one last time to get it, which I did. That was on Friday. Saturday morning it was running for the first time on my system. Last evening I had finished it, with around 35 hours of game time in total, I think, though I might have touched the 40 hours mark.

So, here we have a games that has made me stay up til late and wake up early to play it again. Here is a game which made me forget that I had skipped a meal, in other words, here is an addiction. Is that bad? Hell no. I need not remind people how boring I found Oblivion or Fallout 3 to be. Open worlds, open everything, yeah but give me a task? OK, I’m exploring but is there more to it then this? Screw this, I’ll play another thing. But XCOM is also open to an extent. You can progress the story line whenever you want it, you can keep on playing it days and days on an end, you can gather more resources until you feel like you are the 10% but it manages to do a couple of great things.

For one, it managed to combine base building and missions really well. You want to go on missions to gather resources and expand the base and you wanted to research and build things to see how they go in the field and help out your soldiers. Then, while playing the missions, the atmosphere, the tactics of it all. I did not think that I would like playing a turn based squad tactical game so much and XCOM manages to deliver. The amount of polish is really good and it really sucks you in, despite the bugs. For instance, my camera would usually flicker between floors. Then on one occasion I had to rage quit because one of my flying units got stuck in the air and he couldn’t move anymore. Not only that but the final part of the level could not be loaded and considering it was the final level, it made it even more annoying. Despite all these, the game appeared to be more than pleasing. So much that I’m considering a second playthrough. I mean it!

Other playthroughs can make you try different approaches. For instance, my roommate, Bert Baker, made an army of clones, all having his name, and no, he does not consider it narcissistic at all, while Simon made his squad based on people he know. Apparently in his game I always missed ( I see what you did there, Simon).

Nonetheless, there’s always a thing that you think of trying to do. Either have a terror mission where you save all civilians (good luck with that!) or have no council member drop out (good luck with that too!) but all in all, despite repetitive maps and some lack of replayability, I think it’s a great remake. One that really shows how Firaxis hit the jackpot on this one by keeping to the original and trying to improve things a little but not too radically.

Good guy Firaxis and Thank You for wasting my weekend.

But what are they going to do now? Well, we just let the community develop a lot of mods. WRONG! This won’t really happen since XCOM was not designed like Civilization. It does not actively support modding (yet), but that has not stopped nexusmods from creating a couple, including The Second Wave that adds more gameplay after finishing the game. And the first DLC pack has been announced (yey!) on Joystiq. What will the future hold? I don’t know, but I just hope that it will be as good as the currently released version is. Then again, they might make an expansion that tackles undersea fighting, just like the original XCOM did, and hinting to the odd title of the post.

Anyway, Cheers Firaxis and looking forward to great things from you.


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